cover image Nian, the Chinese New Year Dragon

Nian, the Chinese New Year Dragon

Virginia Loh-Hagan, illus. by Timothy Banks. Sleeping Bear, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-58536-413-8

In this adaptation of a Chinese legend, Loh-Hagan pits child Mei against a formidable dragon named Nian, who emerges every spring from his undersea mountain to feast on villagers (“He especially loved to eat little boys and girls”). After the magical warrior who bound Nian visits Mei’s dreams, she awakens with the warrior’s walking cane and a quest to defeat the dragon in 15 days, lest he be freed forever. Her initial efforts—scaring Nian away with cacophony and the color red—work for spans of five days each, at which point he returns, hungrier. After another dream visit, Mei formulates a plan: hiding the cane in a food-stuffed scarecrow for Nian to choke upon. An author’s note explains the origins and inspirations behind her tale. Though boldly rendered illustrations by Banks in places edge discomfitingly close to stereotype (some background characters, and the scarecrow, have lines for eyes), Loh-Hagan’s engaging narrative will likely appeal to fans of mythology. Ages 6–10. (Dec.)